UGC directs ‘Deemed to be Universities’ to drop the word ‘University’ in their name

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The Supreme Court has recently directed the UGC to ensure that deemed to be universities do not use the word ‘University’ in their names. Will mere dropping the word ‘University’ make any difference?

The Supreme Court (SC) recently suspended the engineering degrees obtained by students between 2001 & 2005, in the distance mode from ‘Deemed to be Universities’. The court directed that the UGC & AICTE conduct a test for these students whose degrees have been suspended. In the same judgment, the court directed the UGC to ensure that the deemed to be universities do not use the word university in their name.

What are ‘Deemed to be Universities’?

Section 3 of the UGC act empowers the Central Government to declare any institution of higher education to be a deemed to be university. Typically, institutions which are doing work of very high academic standard in a specialized field comparable to a university are supposed to be granted the deemed status. The idea is that these institutions would slowly become universities.The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) & Indian Institute of Science (IISc), were recognized as ‘deemed to be universities’, way back in 1958, the first set of institutions to be recognized as such. The number of such institutions was small till the early 2000s after which it has seen an exponential growth. The number of such institutions that are privately managed have outnumbered the public ones as per the Tandon committee report.  Currently, there are 123 deemed to be universities.

Questions raised on quality & other issues in these institutions

Multiple questions have been raised in the past on the quality of education, standards and various other issues in the deemed to be universities. Some of these institutions were found to have started off-campuses without the approval of MHRD. Others were found to have serious deficiencies as pointed by a committee appointed by the UGC. Questions have also been raised in the Parliament about the high fee charged by some of these institutions for entrance examinations.

The Tandon Committee in its review report submitted in 2009 also highlighted the serious deficiencies in these institutions. The committee had in fact recommended that 44 such institutions do not deserve to retain their position as deemed to be universities. These 44 institutions later approached the SC which directed the UGC to examine the report and issue notices.

After many such issues were raised, the UGC issued the ‘UGC [Institutions Deemed to be Universities] Regulations’ in 2016 superseding the earlier regulations. The new set of regulations contain stringent eligibility criteria to ensure quality of education, periodic inspection for reviewing infrastructure, faculty, admission process, examinations process, research, etc.

Will dropping ‘University’ in the name make any difference?

Following the SC judgment, the UGC had issued a letter asking all such deemed to be universities to stop using the word ‘University’ in their name.The word ‘University’ in these institutions gave a wrong impression to parents/students that these are full fledged universities. Coupled with it, some institutions offering engineering degrees have used the word ‘University’ to for publicity in order to drive students to take their entrance examinations. While dropping the word by itself may not make much of an impact in quality of education & other issues, it will hopefully encourage parents & students  to know more about these institutions before making a decision to join them.

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